Planned Grocery Store Raises Representation, Labor Concerns in the Central District

Comments

1
Well, good luck to the intrepid grocery retailer. No matter who tries to do what in that neighborhood, someone is going to complain bitterly about it. It would serve the whiners right if NO ONE put anything useful in that neighborhood until all the complainers die of old age or get bored and find another target for their incessant complaining. In any other neighborhood, the locals would be thrilled to get a decent grocery store. But the CD? pffft
2
Grocery Outlet is at Union and MLK 0.3mile away.
3
There’s a Safeway just about two blocks north, past the substation, at 23rd and Madison.
4
Why is it that the grocery stores that charge the most typically pay their employees the least?
5
Looting, @4
6
I don't know anything this company or its employment practices but it's worth keeping in mind that when it comes to HR/personnel conflicts there's always two sides to the story.
7
@4: citation needed.
8
Good luck at your new gig, Ana!
9
I actually like New Seasons' mix of quality produce and some "regular" goods that you can't get at places like PCC (like Charmin). It is a bit higher-end than Safeway, but I don't find it that much more expensive than Safeway on 15th.

I'd also question the accuracy of that one site's chart. Of course it's going to make them look as bad as possible since that's exactly their intent; look at the name of the site. And every grocery store has some items that are more or less expensive than others, because they get you there to buy discounted stuff in the hope you buy more expensive items.

Trader Joe's is not considered a good place to shop by that site (because it isn't union), yet its employees love working there, and they get paid better than average, and they get benefits. So that's a pretty narrow lens to view a "fair" store chain. I mean, QFC is cool--hey, we're owned by Kroger, and Kroger is terrible!--but Trader Joe's isn't?
10
Does New Seasons not offer fried chicken and collard greens?
11
A Safeway a couple of blocks away? Fuck, stop your crying.
12
@10. Racist overtones to that question aside...yes they do and it's delicious.

And in Portland they are the most diversity conscious grocery by a landslide. It almost looks curated sometimes. Pay is a living wage, benefits are reasonable, and from my observed experience, the employees generally like the environment and are friendly as fuck.

The butchers I know there are a rowdy bunch of guys and gals that take pride in their work and being knowledgeable and helpful. Some prices are high, but they also carry western family brand, which is cheap as hell. So it depends on the quality of grocery and how much you're willing to spend on your food whether it's affordable or not.
13
@10: Maybe, maybe not. Now go back to your corn dog.
14
@12: Good organic food and cheap staples, and probably less 'attitude'. I'll take that over PCC or Whole Foods any day.
15
Last time I was at that Red Apple (10 years ago?), a black mom slapped her 8 year old son across the head, a lesbian couple intervened, the black woman told them to mind their own business, and the three of argued for 5 minutes while the poor kid looked on.

It's always interesting when cultures collide.

For the bargain hunters, there's still Grocery Outlet on Union and MLK.
16
New Seasons should not be described as essentially replacing Red Apple. That's irresponsible: the locations are not near each other, and anyone who walked to one would not be able to walk to the other. Grocery Outlet is super close to the new New Seasons location (literally 1000 feet). Same with Safeway. This is not an economic food desert location. The location of the Red Apple is a desert, yes, but that is soo far away that it shouldn't even be a part of this story (except as a separate example of gentrification). The demonizing of New Seasons seems stage-managed, and the only thing I can think of is that it is coming from unions. Unions are good, but they aren't required, and...if it's true that NS is the 3rd best mid-sized employer, then isn't that a grocery store we DO want in town? So if we can stop making stuff up like pretending Grocery Outlet and Safeway don't exist within spitting distance, then we can have an honest discussion about gentrification. Will it accelerate gentrification? Maybe. But even that is a red herring, because the future of the neighborhood truly lies in how the entire huge block across the intersection develops it's FIVE HUNDRED PLUS housing units that are currently being planned. Let's focus on that, and not on whether or not a tiny grocery store moves in to an intersection.
17
I think it's worth highlighting that this is a small store we're getting all worked up over. It's 18k square feet max (based on the building's available commercial space, so probably slightly less in reality), versus 45k sf for a Whole Foods store. Newer Safeways are often around 55k sf. The New Seasons will be of similar size to a Walgreens.
18
@11-15 go fuck yourselves
19
@18: sick burn
20
Ana, first, it’s really disingenuous to go through this whole rigamarole about “replacing Red Apple” without mentioning Safeway or Grocery Outlet right nearby.

Second, by my quick count, 6 of the article’s 25 paragraphs are based on anonymous quotes from a single source, which would enrage an editor at any journalistic publication.

Such poor work here.
21
Yeah. I could walk to Red Apple. I can't walk to any of the others. I no longer have a neighborhood grocery store unless you count the Quick Pack. There's more to the CD than the northern end of it.
22
23rd and Union is a historically African American area where I a mixed race resident have lived for over 20 years. To be blind and not identify the levels or gentrification that is happening in that area is disgusting. First you raise the property tax so the African American families cannot afford to live in the area. Next you build a police drop in center, then over prices apartments now an over priced grocery store. It's a shame but that's life. The uneducated people commenting "stop complaining" obviously haven't lived in the area any longer than 5 years and have no sympathy for relocating an entire culture of people.
23
Well, for what it is worth, I am going to the new PCC on Madison after it is completed AND the Gross Out on MLK...talk about diversity. It is my own thing but I just cannot stand Safeway (never will I step foot in an Albertsons).
24
@19: Yes, we're all appreciative of it being aggregated into one comment.
25
@3/11:

Actually the Safeway at 23rd & E Madison is about 4 blocks away from 23rd & E. Madison, but this will put the New Seasons store some 13 blocks (roughly a mile, maybe a little more) from 23rd & E. Jackson. Not an insurmountable distance to be sure, but it still puts it slightly farther away from those who live south and east of where the Red Apple used to be, especially if you're old and not able to walk or drive that distance.

@10:

The article specifically mentioned "catfish and greens", and it was pretty decent catfish for a grocery deli case (the mac-and-cheese wasn't bad either) - in fact, you'd be hard-pressed to name another major grocery store that even sells fried catfish.

As for creating "new jobs" I can't help but wonder how many jobs were lost with the Red Apple closure, and what the odds are that any of those people would be hired to work at a more upscale establishment that's essentially taking its place, even if it's not at the same physical location.
26
@24. Ha! With trolling that attractively priced I can afford to comment on more than one post today.

27
#25 According to a union rep at the District Council meeting a few weeks ago, when the Red Apple closed all the employees were absorbed by the Beacon Hill location and a few other Red Apples. No job lost. IMHO the New Seasons is not "essentially taking its place." They are far apart. Wasn't there a Safeway at the Mid Town location decades past or was it accross the street where the Casey Foundation is now?
28
@22: check this out: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-new…

the gist: other cities have gone up more steeply. our avg. prop tax went up $800 between 2005 & 2015. that's about $70/month. there's no one that rents in this city that hasn't seen a climb of $70/month in the last 10 years. it's not targeted at the CD. I've heard the same complaint from the white dude at my dry cleaner.
29
I'm flabbergasted by this "people are losing their affordable groceries" narrative. I live across the street from that Red Apple, and I never shopped there because whenever I did a price comparison, they were consistently the MOST expensive grocery store in the area. In fact, I found that they were often more expensive than "fancy" grocery stores like PCC.
30
A neutrality agreement on the part of New Seasons would allow the workers to form a union without fear (if they so chose). If workers have agency to negotiate pay and benefits, and folks are hired from the neighborhood, some of the gentrifying aspects could be offset.
31
@28 lol this has nothing to due with the generations of grandmothers that have been forced out of there home prior to 2005.
32
I've heard about their point system for punishing their workers. 10 points and your fired. 3 points charged per sick day. I want the people serving me food to come to work because they are healthy, not because they are afraid of being fired. Progressive discipline people! Not this childish point system which can be abused to mistreat workers.
33
#3 #11 Safeway at madison is more like a mile away from 23rd and jackson.
34
@32 I work for New Seasons. Points fall off after six months, multiple absences for the same illness are treated as one three-point incident, and Oregon First Day Sick Pay protects these absences from incurring any points. Chronic health care and family care issues have further state protection. While no company has perfect policies, New Seasons' has the most lenient attendance policy of any job I have ever had, and I come from working in grocery unions. The NSM attendance policy is really the last thing you could demonize the company over.
35
@9 I'm a crew member at Trader Joe's in Seattle. I can assure you that all is not as rosy as it seems to TJ's customers. Trader Joe's employees may *seem* jolly and happy all the time, but that is far from the reality of working in our stores. The reality is that Trader Joe's forces its crew to give a "Wow Customer Experience" to everyone who shops in our stores. Our happy demeanor is not natural, it is more often forced. If it is more natural, its because crew want to treat customers well because they are fellow humans, even if Trader Joe's management pressures us to create as happy an environment as possible.

Many Trader Joe's stores in Seattle are chronically under-staffed, and managed by Captains who make base salaries of $110,000, with bonuses over $20,000, who are out of touch with the fact that crew make far less than this. More often than not, Captains care about whether crew members are working to simply sell as much product as possible, with stores making upwards of $130,000 in total sales per day, on busy days.

Trader Joe's nickels and dimes its crew with health care benefits. TJ's carefully tracks and measures how many hours crew members work in order to calculate exactly which staff they have to pay health care to, and which they don't. I work a second job for a different employer (another common occurrence among TJ crew), which provides health care benefits, no questions asked, to anyone who works at least one day a month.

Finally, TJ's top step is $24, which may be higher in some cases than union rates, but our raises are not guaranteed and once you get placed on a step, you are pretty much stuck there. There was a crew member who worked at my store for 3 years, barely made over $15 per hour, and then went to work for a union grocery store in Seattle. Their management credited them as if they had worked under the union contract for 3 years, and the crew member was bumped up to over $18 per hour. They are also eligible for regular step increases under the union contract, and have job security and a meaningful voice on the job.

Trader Joe's is low key but definitely anti-union, held captive audiences against unionizing with crew members, and has been subject to Unfair Labor Practices on the east coast: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/busin…. Our management say they are open to input and criticism, but this is just a facade. When faced with real feedback that was critical of how they ran our store, our management was extremely defensive and failed to take any responsibility whatsoever for our working conditions. I wish that Trader Joe's was union, and the fact that Trader Joe's is anti-union, negatively impacts the working lives of tens of thousands of crew members.

New Seasons and Whole Foods are no different, and make no mistake, these stores and Trader Joe's are not good employers.
36
@32 Even Trader Joe's has a better sick leave policy than you're saying. There is no points system at Trader Joe's and the fact that you can get fired for collecting a certain number of points strikes me as really Draconian. Two former New Seasons workers joined our store (did I mention Trader Joe's is understaffed), and they said said New Seasons' sick leave policy was grossly unfair and that it was responsible for even bigger turn-over at the Mercer Island store. Your writing sounds like you are a New Seasons manager...
37
One would think that a grocery would encourage employees to take sick leave when they feel ill especially during flu season.
38
Dreadfully amateurish article.
39
This is a very confusing article. Are we talking about 23rd and Union or 23rd and Yesler?

23rd and Union will have access to a Safeway and Grocery Outlet, in addition to whatever this designer grocery store is (not to mention Trader Joe's up the hill)

23rd and Yesler is more problematic, but I thought Vulcan was going to let Red Apple come back when they were done? It's a no-brainer that there would be some sort of general service grocery in a development that big. Hopefully one that has better prices than Red Apple (I shop at Hilltop Red Apple every day, and while it's a great store, it's hardly a bargain. If I had my act together, I'd just go to QFC down the hill)
40
#39 Red Apple was at 23rd and Jackson , not Yesler.
41
@39 Jackson, not Yesler! And, to my knowledge, it hasn't been announced what grocery is going in. But RA has made it clear they're not.
42
Haha ... and right in the middle of this article is an ad for Uncle Ike's.
43
Jackson is correct. Mrs. Vel-DuRay regrets the error.
44
Why does the store have to be "Union"? If it follows Federal, State, and Local workplace rules and laws, what's the problem? Lots of places aren't union that sell food. Why does New Seasons?
45
@44 Union density in the grocery industry in Seattle is relatively high (though not as much as it was in say, 1980). While of course not all places that serve food are union, the grocers tend to have higher pay, better working conditions, and better benefits than other places that serve food. The reason? Union density in this industry. What might undermine that? An employer with lower standards because their workers lack agency to determine their pay etc. in negotiations. When workers at union grocers go to the table to negotiate, the last thing thing they want to hear is "why should we give you a raise? New Seasons isn't obligated to, and we have to compete with them." So no, they don't "have to be union", but why advocate for shitty pay and lower standards?
46
@45. "grocers tend to have higher pay, better working conditions, and better benefits than other places that serve food. The reason? Union density in this industry. What might undermine that? An employer with lower standards"
The other thing that would undermine union density in the grocery industry in Seattle ? A grocery chain with HIGHER standards. As a relatively new New Seasons employee, I can tell you the benefits, pay, work environment, safety, focus on community, and the speak up culture make me proud to be a part of it. I am constantly amazed by the effort they make to use business to do good.
From the New Seasons website:
- Oregon’s 2016 Most Admired Companies, Portland Business Journal
- America’s Best Grocery Stores 2017, The Daily Meal
- Oregonians Against Discrimination Award, 2016, Basic Rights Oregon
- Green Globes Award, 2015, The Green Building Initiative for Environmental & Energy Efficiency
- 2015 Executive of the Year, 2015, Portland Business Journal
- 2015 Business of the Year Award, 2015, Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce

Somehow all this seems to outweigh comments from 1 or 2 disgruntled employees (out of over 3,000).

My opinion is that unions are fantastic where needed and they have made workers lives safer and fairer. I just think New Seasons is already doing what unions try to achieve, so what is the point of losing a significant part of my paycheck? AND unions depend on member dues too, so I guess expecting them to take an informed or balanced approach isn't realistic. I guess they'll use whatever untrue or myopic viewpoints they need to in order to get those member dues...Disappointing, when the company on the other end is as positive in intention and action as I have seen New Seasons to be.